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Indo-US defence ties set to strengthen

Josy Joseph in New Delhi | August 05, 2003 04:07 IST

An Indian delegation, led by new Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad, and comprising officials from the Ministry of Defence and senior officers from the army, air force and navy, left for Washington, DC, on Monday morning to attend a Defence Policy Group meeting.

The meeting, originally scheduled around the time the Iraq war started, will be held from August 5 to 7.

According to MoD spokesperson Dr P K Bandhopadhyay, 'the entire defence cooperation including training, exercise, acquisition and dual-use technology' will be discussed.

"It is the highest decision-making body, so it will review the relations and discuss the future direction," he said.

Sources said India expected the Iraq issue to figure during the talks. "We will see its shadow during the meeting," one of the members of the delegation told rediff.com

He said the American side would give an update on the security situation in Iraq, and the DPG 'will just report back their briefing, since the matter is now with the Cabinet Committee on Security'.

On July 14, the CCS had rejected an American request for an Indian contingent for Iraq.

Though the DPG will finalise the broad contours of the bilateral defence ties -- there is at least one military programme a month between the two sides -- an area of key importance will be the purchase of military wares, especially high technology items.

In the first week of July, senior Indian officials interacted with some 120 executives from American firms in Washington, DC.

India is looking into the American defence market for procuring nuclear, biological and chemical suits, equipment for special forces, ground sensors, etc.

On July 10, the Americans delivered two AN-TPQ-37 Firefinder radars to India. This was part of a $190 million deal, primarily for 12 such radar systems, signed between the two sides in May 2002. Some 16 Indian Army personnel underwent training for operating the system this year.

Robert D Blackwill, who recently stepped down as the US ambassador to India, said recently that more than 180 high-ranking officials from Indian security agencies would attend conferences sponsored by the US defence department during the current year.

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